Natural dyes are truly amazing and seeing fabric transform with them can become an obsession! Read on to discover how you can make natural pink dye for yourself!
Using Avocado as a Dye
I was amazed when I first learned of using avocados as a pink dye. I couldn’t imagine how they could produce the color pink. But the peels and pits of avocados do indeed make a dye that ranges from orange to pink.
Aim at collecting the same weight of the peels and pits to equal the weight of your fibers. For this dyeing project I have around 600g of each.
Freezing the peels and pits over time allows you to collect enough to make a strongly colored dye bath when you are ready. Whenever you eat avocados, rinse the peel and pit in cool water, rubbing off the fruit residue with a cloth. Leftover residue will muddy your dye color.
Set them aside on your counter until they’re no longer wet, then put them in a gallon-sized storage bag in the freezer. Over time, depending on how many you use, you’ll have them stored up for dyeing.
What I’m Dyeing
For this dyeing project, I’m dyeing a 54” wide, 1 ¼ yard piece of medium weight cotton twill, a linen/silk blend lightweight sweater and a small amount of wool yarn. All of that weighed out to a little over 600g.
Some Things You’ll Need:
- Avocado peels and pits
- Natural fiber fabric- cotton, silk, linen, wool, or rayon- roughly the same weight as plant material
- Alum mordant
- Stainless steel cooking pot- I have used a large stockpot that I keep just for dyeing
- Wooden Spoon- kept just for dyeing
- Dishwashing gloves for handling mordanted fabric
- Baking soda
Note– If you have a water softener as I do, your water will be slightly acidic. Due to this I’ve added ¼ cup of baking soda to my dye pot, to help to neutralize it. This helps to keep the color closer to pink, rather than orange.
Mordanting Your Fabric
Avocados contain tannins which help the color to adhere and not wash off, but I am using a mordant to help the color to be even stronger and longer lasting. I am using a metallic salt called alum which is the same compound used in preserving food and can be found among the spices at the grocery store.
Mordanting with alum will also tend to brighten up your colors as well. Using other metallic salts change the results of natural dyes, depending on which are used.
You will need about 1 Tbsp. of alum powder per 100g of fiber or fabric. If you don’t have a digital scale, 100g is approximately 1 square yard lightweight cotton fabric.
Please work where there is plenty of ventilation, as it can be irritating to your lungs. I had windows open in my kitchen, where I was working. Also, use gloves when touching the alum because it can irritate the skin.
- Fill your stainless-steel pot about ¾ full of water and heat it until it is steaming hot, but not boiling.
- Carefully add alum powder- 1 Tbsp per 100g fabric or fiber
- Mix with your wooden spoon until dissolved.
- Rinse your fabric to get it thoroughly wet, then squeeze out the excess water. This step prepares your fabric to soak in more of the mordant.
- Carefully place your fabric into the pot of mordant and let it simmer on low for 1 hour. Push the fabric down and agitate gently with your wooden spoon 2-3 times during this hour.
- When the hour is over, put on your dishwashing gloves, remove your fabric carefully by the sink, and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. Squeeze out the excess water.
- I left all my fabric in a big bowl while I prepared my dye bath. If you are not immediately dyeing, the fabric can be hung to dry.
Making Natural Pink Dye
Now we move on to making the pink dye bath!
- Fill your dyeing pot with the amount of water that will cover your fabric when it goes in, I filled mine ¾ full.
- Heat the water until you see it steaming and keep it on a gentle simmer. Don’t allow the water to boil, as excessive heat will cause your color to get a brown shade to it.
- Add your avocado peels and pits as well as ¼-½ cup baking soda, if you choose to use it. Stir to dissolve the baking soda.
- Let the pot simmer for 2 hours, every so often giving it a little stir.
- After 2 hours, add your fabric to the dye pot full of avocado scraps. Remove from the heat.
- Let your fabric remain there for 24-48 hours. Every so often, gently roll the fabric over with your wooden spoon. This will allow the fabric to have more complete exposure to the dye.
This was the color of my fabric and yarn after about 24 hours. I let it soak for about 48 hours because I wanted the richest color I could achieve. Although it looked really saturated after 24 hours, I knew it would not be quite as deeply colored after it was rinsed.
The Final Step
After all that soaking in the dyebath, it is time for the final step, which is to rinse the excess dye off the fabric. Using your dishwashing gloves, remove a piece of your fabric from the dye bath and place it into a sink, or even a bathtub. Remove any avocado dye stuff that may be attached to your fabric as it is pulled out of the dyebath. Rinse thoroughly with cold water, squeezing out the excess dye as it is rinsed.
When the water is running clear, squeeze out the excess water, and hang to dry. Another option is to spin your fabric in your washing machine and place in a dryer on a low heat setting. I prefer hanging mine.
Lovely Results of Natural Pink Dye
The photo above is my cotton twill fabric directly when I removed it from the dyebath.
This photo was taken after I rinsed the fabric. It is visibly lighter in color than the previous photo.
My linen/ silk sweater ended up a very faint peach color, as did my wool yarn. But my cotton twill changed color beautifully, it really held the dye well.
Even among the items I had in the dye bath, there are variations in the saturation of color. That is what I love most about natural plant dyes, all the variations you can get from them.
Can I Use the Dyebath a Second Time?
Before I discarded the dyebath and avocado, I dyed a few more pieces of fabric. First I poured everything out into a bowl, and then I mordanted the new fabric with alum. I returned my dye and avocado pieces to my dye pot. I used it cold and left my fabric submersed for 48 hours.
The results of my second dyeing were less pink, but still pretty and worth the effort.
My second batch is in the left foreground on the photo below.
I hope you give this beautiful dye a try. Let me know in the comments below how it turns out!
If you are interested in more natural dyeing, you may like this post where I show how to make a tea dye.
Thank you for reading!